Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Moscow centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in his interview with Diplomaatia.....
Who in Moscow regarded Trump’s victory as good news and who felt the opposite?
To me it seemed to be good news for the US. Trump’s victory may change the course of both domestic and foreign policy, which can only benefit the US. The US elite have alienated themselves from the majority of Americans. This is a very serious issue. In this respect, Trump’s victory sends the elite a very serious message—do not forget the citizens who live in a world that is materially and mentally very different from that of those who call themselves the leaders of the American nation. The US has always fascinated me with its ability to transform itself without a revolution and, for the last 150 years, without any civil wars. The forthcoming period in US history will be undeniably bitter but beneficial.
Will Trump’s victory improve the alarmingly poor relationship between the West and Russia or make it even worse?
Western-Russian relations are not the most crucial issue from the perspective of US foreign policy. The US has wandered off too far in the world. By that I mean that in my opinion, US foreign policy is gradually moving away from representing America’s national interests. For instance, in her campaign, Hillary Clinton advocated a no-fly zone over Aleppo almost until the very last weeks. If this included Russians, everything would be clear. Yet the question was not put in that way. If the no-fly zone was imposed without Russian involvement…
That would mean war?
…then the US would have to admit that it is pure bluff, because Russian aircraft will be flying in and out of that zone as they please, causing the entire (US) foreign policy to collapse, or the planes would have to be shot down. In the latter case, one must naturally bear in mind that Russian anti-aircraft systems will respond by targeting American planes. This may not yet be considered a war but it is a kinetic conflict. Will it serve the US interests? I do not believe so.
Putin’s telegram to Trump reads “accept my sincere congratulations”. How sincere were Putin’s congratulations?
I do believe they were sincere. To Putin, Trump is a person who has not exactly had anything good to say about Russia, but has at least refrained from attacking or blaming Russia, which has become the norm in America today. Putin was sincere because he sees Trump as a person who has not been afraid to say what he thinks. What he thinks is irrelevant, what matters is that he dared to speak up. This is rare in today’s politics.
When Putin and Trump meet for the first time, what will it take for them to get along?
A lot depends on whether they manage to agree once they sit down—Putin would say, like “two real men” (dva muzhika)—and begin actual negotiations. Putin’s main problem with Western leaders is that the latter are hypocritical, two-faced as a rule. This is the style of today’s Western leaders—they have to be hypocrites simply because democracy involves many different groups who should not be offended; they have to smile and say something to all of them. They have to navigate around everyone.
Are you saying that Putin does not get along with Western leaders because dealing with such hypocrisy is oh so uncomfortable for him?
Yes, he is uncomfortable because this makes it difficult to begin serious discussions.
Putin himself is not hypocritical, I take it?
There is a difference—while the West is overwhelmingly hypocritical, Russia is predominantly cynical. Russia is a cynical country. And when this Russian cynicism meets Western hypocrisy, things just won’t work.
So Putin is a cynic rather than hypocrite?
Of course he is a cynic. He does not need to be a hypocrite because his system does not force him to be. Naturally, he is sometimes hypocritical as well, but he can allow himself to be straightforward and cynical because we are not a democratic country. He is a tsar who controls the whole situation in the country, and therefore, he can allow himself to be blunt. I am exaggerating of course, but only a little.